The Girl with the Eagle: Quilting

So the new quilt The Girl with the Eagle is pinned on the longarm for quilting. I've got several projects on the go, but this was the one that I felt really needed to go on the longarm. One of the benefits is that you can see a good amount of the quilt out in front of you at once and so quilting figures, I think, becomes a bit easier. I suppose it's like standing back from a painting to get an overall feel for a piece. I don't find that's always so easy when the piece is crumpled up in a heap under a regular sewing machine.

The first job is always to establish the threads that I'll need. I like to pick them out and keep them beside me as I stitch. It's like a painter putting the paints out on the palette. They're then ready and I'm more inclined to change colour when I should, rather than getting lazy!

For something like a face, where a number of threads will be needed, and the tonal values are really important, I'll sequence the threads in a line-up ordered by value from the lightest to darkest. At a glance then I can grab the right one.

When quilting something photographic like the face, I'll start with the darkest thread, then the lightest, then fill in all the steps in between. A face might need a dozen thread changes, you just have to let the colour of the fabric guide you. If the quilting starts to show too much, it's time to change thread colour. Matching the thread to the fabric will help to avoid the issue of a young face starting to look lined and wrinkled by visible lines of quilting. The other tip is to quilt quite closely, well very closely, to minimise that effect. It sounds counterintuitive, but more quilting is less distracting than just a few lines.

The surface quality of the thread is also really important. Matte threads are easier to use as they appear more consistent under different lighting. Shiny threads, like rayons, which I do love to use, can be problematic in places like faces because when they catch the light they can appear too pale and then at other times they can appear too dark. I audition threads by laying a single strand onto the surface.

On the feathers section of this quilt I'm able to be a bit freer with my choices. There's not the need to match the colour so exactly. I can use a darker thread to add definition and a lighter one to add a highlight. Hopefully three changes, maybe four will be enough to complete this area. To make the quilting more practical, where possible I'll stitch everything I can with one thread, then change to the next. Changing the thread is time consuming so I'll try to be economical and stitch as continuously with one colour as I can manage.

It can appear that quilting a printed image like this is tricky. But really you can let the fabric guide you. There's probably no need to mark anything you can simply follow what's there. I better get on with it.

Bye for now!


  1. This is so beautiful. I love the colours.

    1. Thank you Margaret! The colours are quite different for me but it's good to have a change!

  2. Im nodding in agreement thru the whole post! While i dont gave a longarm yet, i frequently take the piece back to the design wall after each section to check design. I always admire and am inspired by your work. If i ever make it across iss the pond i hope to take a class or come visit the show. Like Mecca! Lol

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words Stacy, hope that you make it to the UK one day!

  3. Can't wait to see this finished!!! It is fab!!! Thanks for all the tips on use of threads and how you make your choices!


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